At the bus terminal in downtown Los Angeles, they're easy to spot. Dressed in blue jeans, they carry boxes, bags or large envelopes with their name and a number on it. They are ex-offenders, just released from California's prison system. When they step off the bus with $200 in "gate money" in their pockets, many have hopes of making a fresh start.
But in this seedy area just blocks from Skid Row, the new arrivals are easy targets for pimps and drug dealers. For some, the temptation is too much. While not everyone succumbs to the streets so quickly, nearly 60 percent return to prison within three years, according to California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
It's a cycle that Susan Burton is striving to break through her reentry program. Having served six prison terms for drug offenses in the 1980s and '90s, Burton knows from experience how hard it can be.
If we are going to make progress in reducing the recidivism rate, the federal, state, and local governments, and private organizations must work together to add more offender re-entry programs like this one.
Simply locking up more people has proven to be a huge failure, and has created a host of new problems.